What is the Book of Hebrews About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Hebrews!


Historical Context

The author of Hebrews is unknown. He knew Timothy (Hebrews 13:23). He was not an eyewitness of Jesus (see Hebrews 2:1, 3). The letter was probably written before AD 70. Early manuscripts bear the title “To the Hebrews,” which reflects the ancient assumption that it was written to Jewish Christians as well as Gentile Christians who previously had been drawn to the Jewish religion. The author knew his readers and wanted to see them again (Hebrews 13:19). 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Hebrews for your good and to lead you into joy.

The Early Church father Clement quoted from the book of Hebrews in AD 95, showing that the letter had been written at least by that time. Furthermore, internal evidence such as the fact that Timothy was alive at the time the letter was written (see Hebrews 13:23) and the absence of any evidence in the letter showing that the Temple sacrificial system had come to an end (as it did when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70) suggests that Hebrews was written before AD 70. 

—Henrietta Mears

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Hebrews has two primary purposes: to encourage Christians to endure, and to warn them not to abandon their faith in Christ. These warning passages appear throughout the book (Hebrews 2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:12; 10:19–39; 12:1–29). The author encourages faithfulness, love, and sound doctrine. He does so by carefully teaching the Old Testament in light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. 

No New Testament book has had more background research than Hebrews, and none has spawned a greater diversity of opinion. There is, of course, broad agreement about several of the most important things. Virtually all agree that the grand theme of this epistle is the supremacy and finality of Christ.  

A consensus also exists regarding the general identity of the recipients: they were a group of Jewish Christians who had never seen Jesus in person, yet had believed. Their conversion had brought them hardship and persecution with the result that some had slipped back into Judaism. And thus the purpose for writing was to encourage them to not fall away, but to press on (cf. 2:1ff.; 3:12ff.; 6:4ff.; 10:26ff.; and 12:15ff.).

There is also universal agreement, first expressed by Origen, that “Only God knows certainly” who wrote this letter. There is also agreement that the author, whoever he was, was a magnificent stylist with an immense vocabulary and a vast knowledge of the Greek Old Testament.  

So there is general agreement as to the theme, the purpose, the spiritual status of the recipients, and the anonymity and ability of the author. But from here the mystery darkens, for no scholar has yet proven the exact destination or occasion of the letter—though many contemporary scholars tentatively propose that the letter was written to a small house-church of beleaguered Jewish Christians living in Rome in the mid-sixties before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.  

—Kent Hughes  

Source: Content taken from Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul by R. Kent Hughes ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Jesus Is Better by Sam Storms

Check out this phenomenal message series by Sam Storms. Sam Storms preaches through the whole book of Hebrews, several verses at a time. You will be edified by Sam’s passionate preaching about the greatness of Jesus Christ and invigorated to love, follow, and obey Jesus. 

Hebrews Dictionary

As you read through Hebrews, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

A place where sacrifices were made to worship God. An altar could be a pile of dirt or stones, or a raised platform of wood, marble, metal, or other materials. The bronze or brazen altar was used for burnt offerings in the tabernacle’s courtyard. It was a large box, eight feet square and four-and-a-half feet high, made of wood covered with bronze. A much larger altar replaced it when Solomon built the temple. The altar of incense (also called the golden altar) was smaller, covered with gold, and placed just in front of the veil to the holy of holies. Every day, both morning and evening, incense was burned here, symbolizing the prayers of the people.

Heavenly beings created by God before he created Adam and Eve. Angels act as God’s messengers to men and women. They also worship God.

To make up for a wrong act; to become friends again. In the Bible, atonement usually means to become friends with God after sin has separated us from Him. In the Old Testament, the Israelites brought sacrifices to atone for their sins. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ made atonement for our sins when He died on the cross. Because Jesus died to “make up” for our sins, we can have peace with God.

A spot or mark that makes something not perfect.

To praise or make holy. The word bless is used in different ways in the Bible: (1) When God blesses, He brings salvation and prosperity and shows mercy and kindness to people. (2) When people bless, they (a) bring salvation and prosperity to other persons or groups; (b) they praise and worship and thank God; (c) they give good things or show kindness to others.

A sacrifice, or gift, to God that was burned on an altar. The offering was a perfect animal, such as a goat, sheep, lamb or ram. Burnt offerings were always given for cleansing, or atonement, for sins.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Someone who has the right to receive the property or position of another person when that person dies. In Bible times, the heir was usually a son. The Bible says that anyone who is a member of God’s family is His heir. God will never die, but because we are His children, God keeps on giving us great love, care and kindness.

The most important priest of all the priests, who served God in the tabernacle and later in the temple. In the Old Testament, the high priest offered the most important sacrifices to God for the people. In New Testament times, he was also a powerful political leader. He was the head of the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people. He even had a small army. The high priest wore special clothing described in Exodus 28:1-39. Aaron was the first high priest. All other high priests were his descendants. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is now our high priest, the one who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see Hebrews 8–9).

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love Him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A person who settles differences or arguments between two or more people. Jonathan was a mediator between David and Saul. Moses was a mediator between God and Israel. By paying the punishment for sin, Jesus became the mediator who makes it possible for us to have peace with God.

A gift of money, time or other possessions given to God by a person who loves Him. In Old Testament times, people brought food and animals to the Tabernacle or Temple as offerings to God. The offerings were often burned on the altar. Animal offerings were always killed. Their blood symbolized sins being forgiven by death. Christians believe that offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins is no longer necessary because Jesus’ death was the once-for-all sacrifice through which our sins can be forgiven. See also Sacrifice.

To turn around and go in the opposite direction. In the Bible, repent means feeling sorrow for wrongdoing, stopping the wrong action and doing what God says is right. Repentance always involves making a change away from sin and toward God.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because He does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for Him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

The weekly day of rest and worship that God set apart for all people. In the Old Testament, it is the seventh day of the week (Saturday); and today for many Jews and some Christians Saturday is still observed as the Sabbath. For Jews, Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and lasts until sunset on Saturday. Because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, most Christians set aside Sunday as the day of rest and worship (see Acts 20:7).

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners, and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

(1) To be rescued (or delivered) from evil. (2) To be kept from danger or death. In the New Testament, salvation usually means to be rescued from the guilt and power of sin. By his death and resurrection, Jesus brings salvation to people who believe in him.

To be set apart for God’s use. A Christian’s sanctification is an ongoing process. When a person becomes a Christian, he or she is sanctified. The Holy Spirit continues helping him or her become more and more like Jesus, which is the process of sanctification.

The portable tent where the Israelites worshiped God. They used it while they wandered in the desert after they left Egypt and for many years after they entered the Promised Land. Moses and the people built the Tabernacle by following God’s instructions (see Exodus 25-27). The Tabernacle was used until it was replaced by a permanent place of worship called the Temple.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions