An American Commentary on the New Testament

Edited by Hovey, Alvah

Introduction to the General Epistle to the Hebrews

Three among the New Testament Epistles may be regarded as of pre-eminent interest and importance — namely that to the Romans, the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. They differ, indeed, widely in purpose and character. The Epistle to the Romans is an exposition, welling up from the large soul and ripe experience of the Apostle Paul, of the fundamental character, and world-wide relations of the gospel. That to the Corinthians applies the principles of the gospel to the correction of grave abuses and errors which had become rife in one of the most prominent New Testament Churches. The Epistle to the Hebrews, addressed to a body of believing Jews — whether a single church or an aggregation of churches seeks to hold them back from a threatened apostasy to Judaism by exhibiting the transcendent superiority of the New Covenant to the symbolical and transitory system to which they were returning. The Epistle is thus more fundamental in character and scope than that to the Corinthians, and yields in depth of view and the vital importance of its teachings, only to the Epistle to the Romans. Indeed, selecting from the world's entire literature two among its most remarkable productions, we should readily designate, I think, the Epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews. To the former must be accorded the superiority in breadth, comprehensiveness, and power; it glows throughout with the fiery energy of the great Christian Demosthenes. The latter, apparently narrower in scope, makes up in depth what it lacks in breadth; in calm majesty what it lacks in vehemence; and" pursues its even and tranquil course with an earnestness and intensity of purpose which are in striking contrast with the placid smoothness of the style.

But apart from style the Epistle to the Hebrews presents some aspects of striking peculiarity. The authorship, date, purpose, and destination of the Epistle to the Romans lie in the clearest sunlight; that to the Hebrews is in all these points enveloped in an almost impenetrable obscurity. It presents the singular problem of a composition written in the very blaze of the early Christian period, on a practical topic of momentous interest, by a man certainly of virtual apostolic dignity, yet over whose authorship, date, place of composition, and immediate destination hangs a mystery like that which surrounds its own Melchisedec. These successive topics I will briefly notice.



Current tradition in the church has assigned this Epistle to the Apostle Paul, and the question of authorship turns largely on settling the grounds of this tradition. The evidence divides itself into two branches — external or historical, and internal. Looking first at the former, we find that in the Eastern Church the Epistle was from the first regarded as canonical, and was in some form generally attributed to Paul. Pantaenus, Clement, and Origen, the successive heads of* the Alexandrian Catechetical School (180-250 A. D.), all regard it in a qualified sense as his. Pantaenus, the first whom we know to have attached to it the name of the apostle, mentions as an objection to this view the absence in its opening of Paul's customary form of salutation, but explains it (fancifully, I think) from the apostle's unwillingness to put himself into seeming rivalry with his Lord, God's special apostle (Ἀπόστολος) to the Hebrews. (Eusebius' "Hist. Eccles." VI. 14, 4.) Clement, his pupil, finds a weightier objection. He sees in the style the characteristics rather of Luke than of Paul, and solves the difficulty by supposing that Paul composed it in Aramaic, and Luke, his companion, rendered it into Greek. (Eusebius' "Hist. Eccles." VI. 14, 2-4.) So Origen, while repeatedly citing the Epistle as Paul's, and declaring it worthy of him in its wonderful depth of thought, yet regards the style as quite unlike his and far more classical. "For no slight reasons," he says, "have ancient men handed down the Epistle as Paul's, though by whom it was actually written God only knows. Tradition ascribes it partly to Clement, Bishop of Rome, and partly to Luke." (Eusebius' "Hist. Eccles." VI. 25, 11.) Whether these critical doubts died away or not, the later Alexandrians, as Dionysius (about 250), Alexander (about 312), Athanasius (died 373), Didymus (died 395), etc., simply cite the Epistle as Paul's.

In Syria the admission of the Epistle into the Peshito version (in the latter half of the second century) shows its standing as canonical, though it appears as anonymous, and nothing indicates it as being considered Pauline. Yet the later Syrian Church generally held to its Pauline origin. Jacob, Bishop of Nisibis (about 325), cites it as from an apostle, presumably from Paul; and his disciple, Ephraem Syrus (died 378), refers it unhesitatingly to Paul; and in Western Syria the Synod of Antioch (264), in an Epistle to Paul of Samosata, couples citations from it with passages from the Corinthians as belonging to the same author.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Church the view became general which ascribed the Epistle to Paul. Eusebius of Caesarea (300-350) repeatedly refers to it as his, and enumerates fourteen of his Epistles, thus clearly embracing this. (" Hist. Eccles." III. 3, 5.) Yet he speaks of those in the Roman Church who denied its Pauline origin, and he himself, like Clement of Alexandria, regards it as a translation from a Hebrew original of the apostle ("Hist. Eccles." III. 38, 23); and he elsewhere classes it along with the Wisdom of Solomon and that of Jesus, son of Sirach, and the Epistles of Barnabas, the Roman Clement, and Jude, among the works that are disputed (γραφαί ἀυτιλεγόμεναι, VI. 13, 6). It is attributed, however, immediately to Paul in the sixtieth canon of the Council at Laodicea (about 350), by Titus of Bostra (died 371), by Basil the Great (died 379), and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa; by Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (died 386); by Gregory Nazianzen (died 389), by Epiphanius (died 402), by Chrysostom (died 407), by Theodore of Mopsuestia, and others. Also Theodoret (died 457), in the introduction to his interpretation of the Epistle; still he does this to contend against the Arians, who rejected it as un-Pauline and uncanonical.

The Eastern Church thus early regarded the Epistle as from Paul, though not until a late period as proceeding from him in its present form. The weighty authority of the Alexandrian Fathers — Pantoenus, Clement, Origen — turns, from our point of view, rather against the Pauline authorship, when we reflect that it was probably because the stamp of apostolic authority was deemed necessary by them to its canonical validity, and they could give it this authority only by assuming that Paul was, at least indirectly, its author. Their reasons for denying to the apostle its immediate, and, so to speak, literary authorship, are far weightier than those which lead them to bring it within the apostolic circle. Within that circle no name but that of Paul could be connected with the Epistle to the Hebrews; and they had the discernment to see the wide difference of style and manner between this work and the acknowledged writings of the apostle.

We turn to the history of the Epistle in the Western Church. In Rome it must have been early known and highly valued, as the Roman, Clement (about 100), employs many expressions from it in his valuable Epistle to the Corinthians, though without formal citation, or any allusion to its author. Later evidence renders it improbable that he attributed it to Paul, as the canon of Muratori, belonging to the end of the second century, reckons thirteen epistles as attributed by the Roman Church to Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews being excluded from the list, and, indeed, entirely unmentioned. So Caius, Presbyter at Rome (about 210), reckoned but thirteen epistles of Paul; and Novatian (about 250), in his works, " de Trinitate," and " de Cibis Judaicis," works abounding in Biblical citations, makes no mention whatever of our Epistle, which he could hardly have refrained from doing had he recognized it as canonical, not to say Pauline. Outside of Rome, Tertullian, of the North African Church, in the close of the second, and the beginning of the third century, knows only thirteen Pauline epistles. He cites the Epistle to the Hebrews in support of his Montanistic views, and attributes it without questioning to Barnabas. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (died 258), leaves it wholly unmentioned. Irenaeus, the celebrated Bishop of Lyons (died about 202), rarely, if at all, cited the book, — certainly not in his important work' against the heretics, — and is said to have denied its Pauline authorship. Such was the state of opinion regarding the Epistle in the Latin Church as late as the time of Eusebius of Caesarea. After the middle of the fourth century the tide turned, probably under Eastern influence. Between 368 and 400, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Calaxis, C. Marius Victorinus, Philastrius of Brescia, and Ambrose of Milan, attribute it to the apostle, while Rufinus, Jerome, and Augustine (between 411 and 430) receive the opinion with hesitation. The three African Synods — of Hippo (303), and of Carthage (397, 419)— first put the express seal of the Western Church upon the canonical validity and the Pauline authorship of the Epistle; the two former, indeed, cautiously ("thirteen epistles of the Apostle Paul, and one by him to the Hebrews"); but the third decisively (" the epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number "). The decree of the councils was confirmed by the Papal See; and thence onward' through the Middle Ages, with some lingering echoes of doubt among Latin writers, the voice both of the Eastern and the Western churches was unanimous down to the time of the Reformation. Of late opinions I shall speak subsequently.


The historical testimony thus appears by no means decisive in favor of the Pauline origin of the Epistle. To the view that it came from the apostle in its present form, that testimony seems to me decidedly adverse. The internal evidence, I think, bears against it still more strongly. There is, neither in its style, nor form of doctrine, nor mode of discussion, nor historical allusions, a single feature which requires, nor, except the single allusion to Timothy (13:23), which would naturally lead us to attribute it to the apostle.

First. The style hews almost no similarity to that of Paul. — It has nothing of his impetuosity and abruptness, none of his favorite expressions and forms of transition; but moves on in an equable and uniform flow of quiet majesty. In his utmost intensity of emotion the writer is never insensible to, and never sacrifices, the graces of diction. He is a rhetorician, trained in the culture of the schools, and always writing, as Paul never writes, under the habitual sway of that culture. Paul is never a rhetorician; our author is always a rhetorician. Not, indeed, that Paul does not, in the grandeur of his thought, and the native majesty and energy of his diction, often snatch spontaneously some of the highest graces of art. And not that our author, with his soul profoundly penetrated with Christian truth, does not uniformly rise above the sphere of the mere rhetorician. Yet, in his noblest flights, he neither can nor would shake off his habits of rhetorical expression — habits which are utterly alien to the mind of the apostle. Nor, while certainly inferior in finish and grace of style, can we deny to the apostle, on the whole, the superior place as a writer. His largeness and depth of view, his burning energy, his confident and majestic tread amidst the Alpine heights of divine truth, give him a Demosthenian pre-eminence in sacred oratory; and his principal epistles stand as perpetual proofs that if he often fed infantile Christians with the milk of sacred doctrine, he was able to utter among the full grown and mature a wisdom which the wisdom of this world has never transcended nor approached. The question between him and the writer to the Hebrews is not one of relative excellence, but of likeness or unlikeness. And unlike, in their native endowments and style of culture, they certainly are. The one writer would certainly never have written the opening verse of the Epistle to the Romans; still less would the other have written the sonorous and rolling periods of the opening of the Hebrews.

Second. The author of our Epistle classes himself (2:3) among those who received the gospel at second hand. — This position the Apostle Paul could never have assumed for a moment. He repels almost indignantly any lowering of himself to the second rank, and maintains that, equally with the greatest of the apostles, he stood in immediate communication with the fountain head of truth and authority. He stands on the highest level of apostolic prerogative, having seen the Lord Jesus, and received from him directly his commission.

Third. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. — His whole course of life kept his mind open to the world-wide scope and purpose of the gospel. Granting, then, that he might write an apostolic letter to his Jewish brethren (whom he loved, we know, with most intense and tenderest affection), it is scarcely conceivable that his discussion should not have occasionally broken over its bounds, and regarded the relations of the gospel to the world outside of Judaism. There are indeed abundant indications of our author's recognition of this universal character of the gospel. Christ tasted death for every man. He becomes the Son of man that he may share that flesh and blood of which all men are partakers, and thus, through death, deliver men from that fear of death by which universal humanity is held in bondage. Thus the idea of the all-embracing purpose of redemption certainly lies at the basis of his Christology. Yet it is presupposed and hinted at merely. In no single instance does the writer depart from the Old Testament representation of Israel as the " people of God," and declare directly its widening out to the breaking; down of the separating wall, and the admission of the Gentiles to an equal standing with the Jews. The discussion confines itself to the Judaistic relations of the gospel almost as closely as if the Gentile world had no existence. With a concentration of view remarkable under any conditions of authorship, but wholly inconceivable in the case of the world-embracing and irrepressible spirit of the great apostle of the Gentiles, with an unswerving singleness of purpose, the writer discusses the relations of the New Covenant to the Old almost as if the extension of that covenant to all peoples were wholly unknown to him. A discussion so conducted by one whose life and soul were absorbingly devoted to. the evangelization of the Gentiles seems wholly inconceivable.

Fourth. Form of citations from the Old Testament. — Another objection to the Pauline authorship may be found in the form of the citations from the Old Testament. In his acknowledged epistles, the apostle makes his citations indifferently from the Hebrew original and from the Septuagint, translating and quoting from memory with great freedom. Our author, on the other hand, makes his citations invariably from the Septuagint, and gives no indication of even an acquaintance with the Hebrew. He quotes, too, with verbal exactness, having apparently, at least in the longer passages, the text from which he quotes before him; and Bleek has shown that in the citations from the Septuagint, wherever the readings differ, our author draws in general from the Alexandrian Codex, while Paid uses exclusively the readings of the Vatican. In their modes, too, of introducing Old Testament passages, the observing reader will find a uniform and very striking difference.

Fifth. Difference in the coloring and the prominence given to different features of the gospel. — While there is no doctrinal discrepancy, but, on the other hand, an entire harmony in the two writers' fundamental conceptions of the gospel, there is yet a wide difference in coloring, and in the prominence given to different features of it. Both hold to the pre-existence of Christ; both insist alike upon his sacrificial death. But Paul dwells much upon the resurrection of Christ, while our author makes express mention of it but once, and that in the very close of the Epistle. (13:20.) On the other hand, he dwells upon the ascension and the heavenly high priesthood, while Paul refers but once, and that passingly (Rom. 8:34), to his heavenly intercession, and in no single instance employs the designation of high priest, of which the name (occurring seventeen times), and the functions, are the main burden of our Epistle. So an aspect of faith to which Paul makes but casual allusion (2 Cor. 5:7) our author makes the basis of his formal definition and extended illustration (chapter 11), treating it from the Old Testament point of view, while Paul's favorite phrases, "justification," "righteousness of faith," etc. (δικαιοῦν, δικαίωσις, δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως), are entirely foreign to him. These illustrations of specific differences might be greatly extended, and, in fact, drawn from every part of the Epistle. They certainly indicate no contrariety of views in the two writers. Every doctrine that is taught explicitly by the one is, I think, implied, if not expressly affirmed, in the teachings of the other. We may, I think, in fact, detect in our author traces of Pauline companionship and influence. Yet the diversities are very wide, as might be expected from different minds, subjected to widely different modes of culture, and dealing with a range of subjects exhaustless in their contents and infinite in their variety.

Sixth. Historical reference. — Finally, there is but one historical reference in our Epistle that would seem to favor its reference to Paul — namely, the relations of our author to the apostle's favorite young companion, Timothy. (13:23.) This, however, on close examination, seems rather to bear a different testimony. We know of no imprisonment of Timothy during the life of the apostle, a deliverance from which could here be referred to. So far as probabilities go, it would seem likely that Timothy, summoned to Paul's side in his last imprisonment, shared that imprisonment, and was released after the death of the apostle. The most plausible conjecture, therefore, warranted by this allusion, would point to a composition of the Epistle after the death of the apostle, and would thus exclude him from the number of possible candidates for its authorship. With any known event during the apostle's life it is wholly out of harmony; and, so far as this goes, it bears against the view which puts his name at the head of the Epistle.

Most of the above objections are equally adverse to any form of Pauline authorship, whether immediate, or by a dictation of the substance put into form by another, or through an Aramaic original translated into Greek by a friend or disciple. Indeed, we may dismiss at once, and finally, the idea that the work is a translation. Its rhetoric, its Septuagint quotations are against it, and nothing whatever in the Epistle favors it. If any New Testament work, this surely bears the impress of an original.

To whom, then, are we to assign the Epistle? Antiquity connects with it, besides the name of Paul, the names of Clement of Rome, Silas, Luke, and Barnabas. For the two former there is really no evidence whatever. The use of the Epistle by Clement, in his letter to the Corinthians, proves that it was extant in his time, but makes against, rather than in favor of, the supposition that he was its author. Guericke, Ebrard, and Delitzsch, follow Origen, in referring the substance of it to Paul and the form to Luke. But the hypothesis of such dictation is an unwarranted conjecture, made, apparently, only to save the apostolic dignity of the Epistle. The style of Luke has indeed a general superficial resemblance to that of this work, in that it bears the impress of culture beyond any other New Testament writings, and moves with a certain calm stateliness characteristic of our author; but in all radical resemblances to the style of our Epistle, it is, I think, wholly wanting. And an independent authorship by Luke is certainly out of the question. He was indeed one of those who received the gospel at second hand; but his position in the church lacked the almost apostolical dignity which clearly belongs to our author; and he was not a Jew, which the author of this Epistle certainly was.

Several modern scholars, as Twesten, Ullniann, Wieseler, Conybeare and Howson, follow Tertullian in assigning the Epistle to Barnabas. This is not without some plausible grounds. As a Levite, Barnabas might be specially interested in those priestly aspects of the gospel, which in our Epistle are so prominent; as a Cypriote, he might have stood in some special relations to Alexandria; and his title, Son of Exhortation — not "Son of Consolation" (υἰὸς τῆς παρακλήσεως) — might answer to some features, both of sentiment and style, of our Epistle. But nothing that we know of Barnabas warrants our expecting from him any such profound Old Testament researches, or such elaborate graces of style as characterize our Epistle; and from his residence, more or less protracted, at Jerusalem, we might expect clearer references to the temple service than are found in it. Our Epistle connects the Jewish ritual service rather with the Mosaic tabernacle than with the temple, which is not, I think, once expressly named in the Epistle. We may add that if Barnabas was the author of the writings which have come down to us under his name, then the Epistle to the Hebrews cannot be from his pen; and if it is from him, it is certainly an extraordinary ordering of Providence that the name of this great leader in the church should be transmitted to later ages in connection with an almost worthless forgery, and almost wholly dissevered from the work which would have placed him among the noblest instructors of the church, and in the very first rank of Biblical authorship.

The only name, I think, connected with the authorship of our Epistle, for which any strong argument can be made, is one wholly unknown in this connection to Christian antiquity — that of Apollos, The first to ascribe the Epistle to him, breaking in on the settled current of Mediaeval opinion, was Luther, followed by some of his compeers of the


Reformation. This hypothesis once started has found gradually increasing favor. Clericus and Semler, Bleek, the Coryphoeus among the expounders of this Epistle; more recently, Tholuck, Credner, Alford, Lunemann, Kurtz, and among the very latest, W. F. Moulton, have given in their adherence to the view which fixes the authorship upon Apollus. The grounds for a certain conclusion are doubtless wanting; but all the positive evidence tends in this direction. The author of the Epistle was certainly a Jew, and nearly as certainly an extra-Palestinian Jew. He was a person of elegant culture, and trained in the arts of rhetoric: for the Epistle is full of fine rhetorical points. He was apparently acquainted with the writings of the Alexandrian Philo (though untinetured by Philo's allegorizing and mystical tendencies); for the verbal coincidences are too numerous and striking to be the result of accident. He was, therefore, in all probability from Alexandria. He stood as a teacher on high and independent ground, and yet was not of those who had received the gospel at first hand. He differed widely from Paul in his mode of presenting the gospel; was a far more finished writer and commanded a more eloquent style, and yet is actuated by the same spirit, and is in all fundamental points in perfect harmony with him. He was profoundly versed in the Old Testament, and had that power of fathoming and drawing out its hidden meanings, which would enable him " with great power to convince the Jews from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ," as witness his treatment of Ps. 8:5-7; of Ps. 109:4; 39:40, and of the Lord's Melchisedec priesthood. All these requisites to the authorship of this Epistle are fulfilled in Apollos, and we could scarcely find them more significantly summed up than in the words of Acts 18:24, 25. "Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, an eloquent (or lettered) man, mighty in the Scriptures, with great power convincing the Jews from the Old Testament that Jesus is the Christ." Add to this his further training by Aquila and Priscilla. disciples of Paul, his companionship with the apostle himself, and the crowning inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and I doubt if we have much farther to seek for the man through whom the Spirit enriched the church with this precious storehouse of sacred truth.


All that is clear in regard to the destination of the Epistle is that it was directed to Hebrew Christians, who had distinguished themselves by their fidelity and Christian beneficence (6:10), but had declined from their steadfastness, and had ceased from their Christian progress, and were relapsing into Judaism. That they were Christians in Pales tine was generally assumed by antiquity, and might naturally be inferred from there being no mention of an intermixture of Gentile believers. Yet this reason is scareely decisive, as there may have been in many places Christian bodies preponderantly Hebrew; and assuming Apollos to be the author, it seems scarcely likely that he stood in any such relation to the churches of Palestine as this letter would imply. It would be more natural to find its first readers in Alexandria, a place swarming with Hebrews, and to which the style of thought and diction would seem more fitted than to Palestine. This hypothesis has been adopted by Credner, Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, Biuisen, Conybeare and Howson, and others. Yet it lacks positive support; there is no certainty that any Christian churches yet existed in Alexandria, and the entire ignorance of the Alexandrian Fathers regarding its author and history is strongly against it. Stronger reasons, I think, exist for finding, with Alford, Kurtz, and others, its original circle of readers in Rome. This view would explain the early knowledge and use of the Epistle by the Roman Clement, would harmonize with the references (10:32-34) to persecutions experienced by the Christians under Nero in the year 64, and under Domitian in about 74, in which express mention is made (Eusebius' " Hist. Eceles." III. 17) of the confiscation of their goods (10:34), and is strongly supported by the language of the closing salutation, ''those from Italy (οἰ ὰπὸ τῆς Ἰταλἰας) salute you." Were the language "those of Italy" (οἰ ἐκ τῆς Ἰταλἰας), "they that belong to Italy," it might naturally be referred to one who was writing from Italy, and was giving to foreigners the salutations of his Italian brethren. But the phrase "those from" Italy (οἰ ὰπὸ), indicates rather Italians absent from Italy, and making his letter the vehicle of their greetings to their countrymen. Or, of course, it might indicate Italian companions of the writer, addressing their greetings to friends in some other region than Italy. Yet of the suppositions the former is the more probable, and it harmonizes with the intrinsic probability that an Epistle of so great importance would be more likely to find its destination in Rome. The question stands open.


The place of composition of the letter lies in still deeper obscurity than its destination, and is indeed of less importance. According to our previous view, it was not written in Italy, and as the place where it was written contained evidently Italian residents, it may, as supposed by Bleek, Kurtz, etc., be some seaport town, as Corinth or Ephesus, easily accessible to fugitives from the Roman persecutions, especially as these towns had been the former scenes of the labors of Apollos.

As to the time of composition, there is a very general concurrence among all expositors in the opinion that it was written somewhere between the years 62 and 67. That the Jewish Temple was still standing cannot be inferred from chapter 10, where the present is certainly the historical present, and is describing under the present time the arrangements of the Mosaic tabernacle, and therefore has no necessary reference to the temple at Jerusalem. Still, if so great a blow to Judaism as the destruction of the temple had actually been experienced, it seems hardly credible that the Epistle, reticent as it is regarding historical events, should not have given some intimation of it; and it seems, on the whole, safest to fix the date of the Epistle a little before the year 70, when the flames of civil war were reddening the horizon, and giving a fearful significance to the words "and so much the more as ye see the day (the dies irę, the day of the great impending catastrophe) approaching." (10:25; compare 1 Cor. 3:13.)


The immediate object of the Epistle is to arrest the backsliding of a body of Jewish Christians who, having once distinguished themselves by their Christian activity, beneficence, and constancy under persecutions, were now relapsing into Judaism. To the attainment of this end it proceeds with a singleness and intensity of purpose which contrast strikingly with the placid smoothness of the style. It divides itself in general into a doctrinal or argumentative, and a practical or hortatory part. The argumentative part extends from the beginning to chapter 10:19. The practical part extends from chapter 10:20 to the end. In the theoretical portions, however, are interspersed hortatory passages of greater or less length, and the hortatory portion is more or less tinged with argument. Yet the general dividing line is clear and unmistakable, and the argument proceeds on a single line of discussion, aiming to show the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old by showing the measureless superiority of Him who was the Introducer, Founder, and High Priest of the New Covenant to the corresponding classes of personages in the Old. The analysis of the Epistle is as follows:




Ch. 1. (1) The manifold and fragmentary forms of Revelation in the Old Covenant have been replaced by one final Revelation in the Son, who, as Mediator of the New Covenant, is exalted as high above the angels (messengers), mediators of the Old, as his name (Son) IS more excellent than theirs. (1:1-4.)

(2) Proof and illustration from the Old Testament of Christ's superiority as Son of God to the angels. (5-14.)

Ch. 2. (3) Brief exhortation to heed a revelation made by so extraordinary a personage. By as much as the Son is superior to the angels, by so much greater the peril of disobeying his message than theirs. (1-4.)

(4) Christ, though as Son infinitely superior to the angels, yet was humbled temporarily below them, that, suffering and dying as man, he might rescue and elevate his human brethren, and, as a faithful High Priest, reconcile them to God. (5-18.)


Ch. 3. (1) Christ, as Leader of the New Testament Israel and founder of the New Testament house of God, greater than Moses, leader of ancient Israel, and founder of the Old Testament house of God. (1-6.)

(2) Solemn waning to the readers against repeating the rebellion of their fathers and excluding themselves from Gods Sabbatic rest, as the rebels under Moses forfeited the rest of Canaan. (7-19.)

Ch. 4. (3) The rest of God forfeited by ancient Israel, still open under its higher form, as God's Sabbatic rest, to the spiritual Israel. (1-10.)

(4) Renewed exhortation in view of the renewed promise of a higher rest, and based on the spiritual and searching qualities of the word; and transition, through their need of a sympathizing high priest, to the next and chief topic of the Epistle. (11-16.)


Christ, the High Priest of the New Dispensation, superior to Aaron, the high priest of the Old.

Ch. 5. (1) Necessary qualities of the high priest. (1-10.)

(a) He is taken from among men, that he, as man, may deal tenderly with men. (1-3. )

(b) Christ is not self-appointed, but called of God. (4. )

(c) Christ received his priestly office from God, (5, 6. )

(d) In his fleshly nature as man, Christ wrestled with the fear of death, and, learning obedience from suffering, was perfected for his saving and priestly work. (7-10.)

(2) Long hortatory passage, suggested by the incapacity of the readers to enter on the profound discussion before them; namely, the priesthood of Christ. (5:11-6:20.)

(a) Failure of the readers in that spiritual maturity which they should, by this time, have attained. (11-14.)

Ch. 6. (b) To this condition of spiritual maturity just described the writer exhorts his readers to hasten forward, and not linger among the elements of the religious life. He alarms them with the possibility that their backsliding may become irretrievable, but assures them of his better and brighter hope for them. (1-8.)

(c) the brighter aspects of the case. The author would encourage as well as alarm. He declares to his readers his confidence that under God's covenant faithfulness better things await them; cites his oath to Abraham as a sure ground of confidence, and, reminding them of their hope which enters the heavenly sanctuary, and rests on the heavenly High Priest, thus brings his subject gracefully round to the starting point in the heavenly high priesthood of Jesus, from which he had digressed. (9-20.)

Ch. 7. (3) The royal Melchisedec priesthood of Christ. (1-28.)

{a) Summary of the Old Testament description of Melchisedec in those historical features which determine the character of his priesthood. (1-3.)

(b) Personal greatness of Melchisedec illustrated by his receiving tithes from Abraham, and that under extraordinary conditions. (4-10. )

(c) Application of these facts in regard to Melchisedec to the subject. The introduction of a new priesthood in) plies the failure of the Levitical, and the abrogation of the law for which it stood responsible. (11, 12.)

(d) This change in the law shown historically in the change of tribe to which the priest belongs. (13, 14.)

(e) The change is shown more clearly in the intrinsic character of the new priesthood, which is constituted not after a carnal ritual, but after the power of an endless life. (15-19.)

(f) A further proof of the superiority of the Melchisedec priesthood, is that it is instituted with the sanction of an oath. (20-22.)

(g) Christ's Melchisedec priesthood, unlike the Levitical succession, is a single, perpetual, everlasting priesthood, which can thus carry through to completeness its work of salvation. (23-25.)

(h) Exultant summing up of the qualities of Christ's Melchisedec priesthood necessary to be allied with those of the Aaronical high priest, to which topic ver. 26-28 form a transition. (26-28.)

Ch. 8. (4) The efficient Aaronical high priesthood of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. (8:1-10:18.)

(a) As a royal Melchisedec Priest, Christ has taken his seat at the right hand of God, and as Levitical High Priest, he has gone into the heavenly tabernacle. (1, 2.)

(b) As such a High Priest, Christ must of necessity have something to offer, (3.)

(c) So vitally connected are these two, the priesthood and the offering, that on earth there would be no place for his priesthood, as there exist already there those who make the offerings of the law, and whose prerogatives are inviolate. (4. )

(d) But, in fact, he is a High Priest, and can, therefore, make offerings, because he has the true tabernacle and the true priesthood, of which theirs were but a shadow, and a priesthood as much better than theirs as is the covenant, of which he is the Mediator, better than theirs. (5,6.)

(e) For that it is better than the first (this subordinately and in passing) is clear from its having superseded it. For God, having found the first inefficacious, replaces it by a new. and the former one becomes antiquated and expires. (7-13.)

Ch. 9. (f) But that First Covenant (for to see how the New is organized, we must look back to that, its copy; and to see what the new High Priest must offer, we must look back and see what the old one offered) had its ordinances of service, and its sanctuary consisting of two tabernacles, an outer or more common, and an inner and holier one. (9:1-6.)

(g) Now in the outer sanctuary the priests performed constant ministrations, but into this inner sanctuary the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood — he carried in there the blood of slaughtered victims, symbolically, though not really expiatory of sin. (6-10.)

(h) We see, then, what is demanded of our High Priest. It is blood. And as his is the true, and not the symbolical priesthood, as he is in the genuine, and not the copied sanctuary, he must offer blood that is really, and not symbolically, cleansing. He brings his own. (11-14.)

(t) This spiritual efficacy of the blood of Christ warrants and demands a New Covenant, inaugurated, like the First, with blood, but the blood of a nobler victim than that of the Old; for Christ has entered into the true antitypical sanctuary, not, like the earthly high priests, for repeated entrances, but once for all, never to leave it until he comes without sin unto salvation. (15-28.)

Ch. 10. (5) Summing up of the entire high priestly argument. (10:1-18.)

(a) Finality of Christ's voluntary sacrifice as opposed to the symbolical sacrifices of the law. (1-10 )

(b) Finality of Christ's priestly ministration as opposed to the oft-repeated ministrations of the Levitical priesthood. (11-14.)

(c) Finality of the New Covenant, and of the sacrifice which seals it as effecting the absolute remission of sins. (15-18.)


(a) Exhortation to approach God boldly, to stir up each other to love, and not to forsake the Christian assemblies. (19-25.)

(b) The exhortation sharpened by the terrible consequences of apostasy. (26-31.)

(c) Encouragement from past fidelity, and exhortation not to throw away its fruits. (32-39. )

Ch. 11. (2) Encouraging survey of the achievements of faith in Jewish history. Muster roll of the heroes of faith. (1-40.)

(a) Illustrations of faith in the antediluvian believers. (1-7.)

(b) Example of Abraham and Sarah. (8-12.)

(c) Retrospective glance at the above-cited believers. (13-16.)

(d) Examples of the Jewish patriarchs. (17-22.)

(e) Example of Moses. (23-29.)

(f) Examples from the Exodus of Israel to the time of the Maccabees. (30-40.)

Ch. 12. (3) Renewed exhortations, suggested chiefly by this historical survey. (12:1-29. )

(a) Incitement to endurance from the encompassing presence of this host of witnesses, and especially of Jesus, their Leader. (1-3.)

(b) Their afflictions the fruits of God's chastening love. (4-11.)

(c) They are to resist firmly all relaxing tendencies by cultivating unity, purity, and constant watchfulness. (12-17.)

(d) They are to hearken to these exhortations in view of the grandeur and exalted character of the New Covenant, and the danger of disregarding its blessings and claims. (18-29.)


Ch. 13. (1) Practical admonitions of a general character. (1-9.)

(2) Renewed exhortations against apostasy. (10-21.)

(3) Final injunctions, personal references, and salutations. (22-25. )