Overview of the book of Hebrews
Should Christians ever turn away from the faith, or should they hold fast to it? Why?
The book of Hebrews is a long list of reasons to cling to Jesus. Hebrews was written for Christians who had been in the church for a while. These folks knew about angels, the Old Testament heroes, the devil, and Moses’ tabernacle, but someone thought they needed to know a little more.
So someone wrote Hebrews—we don’t know who (more on that later).
It’s a word of exhortation (Heb 13:22), a message that comforts us and motivates us to obey God.
Hebrews is about Jesus’ supremacy
No other book of the Bible so powerfully demonstrates Jesus’ supremacy. Throughout Hebrews, the author compares Jesus to the heroes and icons of the Jewish faith. Each hero played a part, but His sacrifice, His covenant, and His current ministry are far, far greater than anything the others have to offer.
Jesus is greater than the angels, because He is the divine King (Heb 1:4, 6, 8).
Jesus is greater than Moses, because while Moses was a servant of God, Jesus is the Son of God (Heb 3:3–4).
Jesus is greater than Joshua, because Jesus brings a greater rest to the people of God (Heb 4:8–9).
Jesus is a greater priest than Aaron, because He is sinless and immortal (Heb 7:26–28).
But not only is Jesus better than any other human religious figure—He also has a better ministry after ushering in a better covenant built on better promises with a better sacrifice, that is, Jesus Himself (Heb 7:22; 8:6; 9:12).
And what should we do about this? The author of Hebrews encourages the audience to join him in two things:
- Holding fast to the confession—relying on Christ and not turning away from the faith (Heb 4:14, 10:23).
- Stimulating one another to love and good deeds—living in ways that demonstrate faith, obedience, thankfulness, reverence, and love (Heb 10:24).
Theme verses of Hebrews
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. (Heb 10:23–24)
Check out the Bible verse art for other books of the Bible.
Hebrews’ role in the Bible
Apart from Romans, Hebrews is the most doctrine-heavy book of the New Testament1. This book compellingly preaches and re-preaches Christ to those who know Him even today. No other book of the Bible so thoroughly explores Jesus’ New Covenant and current priestly ministry like Hebrews.
But that’s not really what this book is famous for. Today, Christians immediately associate two things with the book of Hebrews: the mystery of who wrote it, and the “Hall of Faith.”
We don’t know who wrote Hebrews.
It could have been Barnabas, Priscilla, Apollos—it could have been almost anyone. Here’s what we do know, though: Hebrews was likely written by someone who heard about Jesus after He ascended. The author claims that salvation was first spoken through Jesus, then through those who heard Jesus. “Those who heard” then performed signs, wonders, and miracles (Heb 2:3–4).
The author of Hebrews puts himself (or herself) in a third category of people who heard about Jesus second-hand. This would exclude Paul, who specifically says he did not receive the gospel from men, but from Jesus Himself (Gal 1:12). Besides, the feel of Hebrews is quite different from that of the Pauline epistles.
Hebrews is also well known for its eleventh chapter, which has been nicknamed the “Hall of Faith.” This chapter is a long list of Old Testament characters who, through faith, accomplished great things and bore up under great tribulation. This chapter cites Abraham, Moses, many characters from the book of Judges, and others as examples of what God can accomplish through our faith.
More facts about Hebrews
Both points of interest (the mystery of authorship and the compelling presentation of content) may stem from Hebrew’s original nature. Many scholars believe Hebrews was first written as a sermon (or series of sermons) to a congregation. When the sermon was distributed to other churches, an epistle-sounding conclusion may have been added to the end. This could explain why there is no formal introduction to this letter like the ones we see in every other NT epistle.
Tradition holds that the book of Hebrews was written to Christian (surprise, surprise!) Hebrews. The author never explicitly says the audience is Jewish, but does assume that the audience is intimately familiar with the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch.
Even so, this epistle is, I believe, one of God’s greatest gifts to His church: an expository look at the person, life, covenant, sacrifice, and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is indeed greater than all others.
Did you know that the book of Hebrews is the second-most doctrine-heavy book of the New Testament? Or that it may have been written as a sermon first and then sent around to churches? Or what about why Hebrews was written in the first place?
Well, now there’s an infographic on the book of Hebrews with all this, well, info. I made this to give you a really high-level overview of Hebrews, and you’re free to share it with your blog readers, congregation, and Sunday school class. And if you want to know more about Hebrews, remember that you can check out my free study guide on the epistle.
More resources on Hebrews
- A free study guide on Hebrews that you can download and print
- More about the theme verse of Hebrews
- Facts about Melchizedek, a mysterious character mentioned in the book of Hebrews
1 Demarest, Bruce A, Walter A. Elwell, and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volumes 1 and 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.