Welcome to Hebrews!
As you may or may not be aware, we started January 1, 2016 with reading a Chapter a day through the New Testament.
If you’re just joining us you’ll notice that we are reading the New Testament in a different order than you’re probably used to. The books of the Bible were written or recorded individually. When they were gathered together, they were placed into a variety of orders. Paul’s letters, for example, have been put in order of length and are badly out of historical/chronological order.
To help readers engage in easier understanding and continuity, the books of the New Testament are arranged so that their literary types, events, and the theological traditions make more sense to the reader.
This becomes very important when we jump from the book of Matthew to Hebrews. As we’ve been made aware, Matthew is known as the “Gospel to the Jews.” Matthew spent a lot of time in his writing linking Jesus’ ministry to the prophecies of the Old Testament. As you will find in the book of Hebrews, the author spends time linking the traditions of the Jewish past, with the New Covenant traditions of the present.
Below is helpful information I found in Fee and Stuarts Book, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book:”
Content: a “word of exhortation” (13:22) sent in letter form, encouraging faithful perseverance in light of the superlative final word God has spoken in Christ
Author: unknown; a second-generation believer (2:3), who was a skilled preacher and interpreter of Scripture, with an excellent command of Greek (it came into the canon among Paul’s letters, but definitely not by him)
Date: unknown; guesses range from a.d. 50 to 90; probably before 70 (since the author gives no hint that the Jewish temple has been destroyed)
Recipients: an unknown but specific group of (predominantly) Jewish Christians; perhaps a house church in Rome (13:24) that is opting out of relationships with the larger Christian community (10:25; 13:7, 17)
Occasion: the community is discouraged because of suffering (10:35–39) and perhaps from doubts about whether Jesus really took care of sin; the author writes to convince them to “not throw away your confidence” (10:35; cf. 2:1; 4:14)
Emphases: God has spoken his absolutely final word in his Son; to abandon Christ is to abandon God altogether; Christ is superior to everything that went before—the old revelation, its angelic mediators, the first exodus (Moses and Joshua), and the whole priestly system; God’s people can have full confidence in God’s Son, the perfect high priest, who gives all people ready access to God
Specific Advice for Reading Hebrews
Most contemporary Christians do not find Hebrews an easy read, for at least two reasons: (1) its structure (just noted) of a single, sustained argument, interlaced with application and exhortations, and (2) the author’s thought-world (basic ways of perceiving reality), which is so foreign to ours. Thus there are two keys to a good reading.
Keep in sight the two foci that concern the author throughout: (1) the overwhelming majesty of Jesus, the Son of God, who stands at the beginning and the end of all things and whose suffering in his incarnation made him a perfect high priest on their behalf (he both dealt with sin finally and perfectly and is also a merciful and empathetic intercessor), and (2) all of this is spoken into the present despondency of the people to whom he writes, who have had a long siege of hardship (10:32–39) and who are beginning to wonder whether Jesus really is God’s final answer. Try to put yourself in their shoes: Jews who had long ago put their trust in Christ, believing that at long last the fulfillment of their messianic hopes had come—only to have suffering (and sin) continue long after they had first believed.
So, join me now as we dive into the world/book of Hebrews.