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God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had ° by himself purged ° our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

Introduction to Hebrews

Hebrews is the only New Testament epistle—other than the three epistles of John—in which the author has not directly indicated his name. Consequently, the authorship of Hebrews has always been in question. It is clearly written to Hebrew Christians, being filled with references to Old Testament Scriptures (often, however, from the Septuagint version, probably because the readers were recognized as Hellenistic Jews of the dispersion) and references to the tabernacle and the sacrificial offerings. Although Paul has been viewed as the most likely author, there have been many others suggested by various authorities, including Barnabas, Luke, Apollos, Silas and others.

An obvious argument against Pauline authorship is that he definitely identified himself as the author in all his other thirteen epistles. Furthermore, he was generally recognized as the apostle to the Gentiles, and all his other epistles were, indeed, written to Gentile churches or individuals. There is also the fact that Hebrews 2:3 seems to imply that the writer was not one of those who had directly heard the Lord.

These arguments are far from compelling, however. Even though Paul primarily ministered to Gentiles, he considered himself “an Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5) and had a great burden “for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). He taught that the gospel should go “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16), and in any new city he entered he would preach first in “a synagogue of the Jews:…as his manner was” (Acts 17:1-2). It would surely be in character for him to write a thorough exposition of the significance of the new covenant in Christ for his Jewish Christian brethren, especially when he learned many of them were becoming discouraged and considering returning to their Jewish religion.

The Apostle Peter, also writing to the Jews of the dispersion, may have referred to the book of Hebrews as written by Paul, when he mentioned that “our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Peter 3:15-16). Here Peter not only accepts Paul’s epistles as “scriptures,” but includes in them “the wisdom given unto him” that he had “written unto you.” Since Peter was writing unto “the strangers scattered” (or, literally, “the sojourners of the dispersion”—that is, the diaspora, the Jews scattered in lands other than Israel), these clearly were the same ones being addressed in the book of Hebrews. Then, since Paul certainly wrote no other inspired epistles to these Hebrews, it almost seems necessary to conclude that Peter was referring specifically to the book of Hebrews.

In addition, the ending of Hebrews seems compatible with a Pauline-type ending (Hebrews 13:22-25). The writer also mentions “our brother Timothy” (Hebrews 13:23), a reference best understood as Pauline, in view of the fact that Timothy was Paul’s convert, disciple and frequent co-worker.

Finally, it should be noted that most of the early Christian writers and church fathers, especially in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, acknowledged Paul as the author of Hebrews. The seeming self-exclusion in Hebrews 2:3 (“confirmed unto us by them that heard Him”) could well be merely Paul’s modest admission that he had never heard Jesus speak during his earthly ministry.

Although it cannot be proved beyond question, there thus seems a strong probability that Paul was the author of Hebrews, which would mean that the New Testament contains fourteen Pauline epistles and seven general epistles. The date of writing must have been well before A.D. 70 (this also would fit a Pauline authorship); otherwise this exposition for Hebrew Christians would surely have alluded in some way to the Roman destruction of the city that year. The comment that “they of Italy salute you” (Hebrews 13:24) might suggest that the epistle to the Hebrews of the dispersion (that is, those “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia”—I Peter 1:1) was one of the prison epistles, written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30).

Regardless of the uncertainty about the author or recipients of the epistle to the Hebrews, the book itself is surely a key book of the New Testament, rich in spiritual instruction and blessing, especially in its multi-dimensional exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is called “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3), “the captain of their salvation” (Hebrews 2:10), “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” (Hebrews 3:1), “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:2), “the mediator of the new testament” (Hebrews 9:15), “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and “that great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20), among many other titles and descriptions. It brilliantly shows the incomparable superiority of the new covenant to all that had gone before to point the way.

1:1 divers manners. The Old Testament Scriptures were all from God, but He used many different writers over the ages, and different manners of inspiration to write them. Whatever method was used, however—whether direct dictation or special revelation or the individual knowledge and ability of the writer—all were so guided and illumined by the Holy Spirit that the words finally written down were as though spoken by God Himself.

1:1 by the prophets. The epistle to the Hebrews is neither addressed to a particular church nor to a particular person (as are all Paul’s other letters), but there are several reasons for believing Paul was the author, as follows: (1) its ending is a typical Pauline ending (Hebrews 13:25); (2) its author was associated closely with Timothy (Hebrews 13:23); (3) Peter implied that Paul had written an epistle to the Jews (II Peter 3:15-16); (4) it was written from Italy (Hebrews 13:24), possibly as one of Paul’s prison epistles; (5) he had been prevented from giving his message to the Jews by his arrest in the temple and transport to Jerusalem, so he undoubtedly wanted to give a full exposition of the Christian faith to his beloved countrymen (note his testimony in Romans 9:1-3). Although he had written many epistles to the Gentiles, he had written nothing yet for his Jewish brethren, and may well have proceeded to do so in prison, after the Jews in Rome had rejected his spoken message (Acts 28:29-31).

1:2 by his Son. God spoke intermittently and partially by the Old Testament prophets, but finally and fully by His Son, through the apostles (Hebrews 2:3).

1:2 heir of all things. See note on Romans 8:17; also see Psalm 2:8.

1:2 made the worlds. The Son is the Creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16). Here the Scripture notes that Christ created the “space/time” cosmos. He is Creator of time as well as space, and all things. The Greek word aion, can be translated either “ages” (e.g., Ephesians 2:7) or “worlds” (e.g., Hebrews 11:3). It embraces the idea of time as well as space and matter, thus beautifully reflecting the scientific concept of the universe as a space/matter/time continuum.

1:3 brightness of his glory. “Brightness” is from a Greek word used only here in the New Testament, literally meaning “off-flashing.” In context of both this passage and modern astronomy, it could well be understood as “radiation.” As the “express image” of the Father, the Son of God is analogous to the life-giving rays from the sun. Just as the Father dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto” (I Timothy 6:16), so can no man gaze long at the sun without being blinded. Yet, physically speaking, as the sun’s radiation provides both light and life to the world, so the Son is spiritually both the “light of the world” (John 8:12), and the “life” of the world (John 1:14; 14:6; Acts 17:28). See also notes on Psalm 19:1; 65:8; Micah 5:2.

1:3 word of his power. The eternal Son not only created all things by His omnipotent Word (Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 11:3) but is now “upholding all things by the Word of His power.” Note the remarkable relationship here between “things” and “power,” or in modern scientific jargon, between mass and energy. The atomic structure of our very bodies is being held together (or “sustained”—see note on Colossians 1:17) by mysterious nuclear forces or binding energies that keep the atoms from disintegrating into chaos. Scientists do not yet understand such energies or their origin—they merely name them! The fact is that we (and all things) are being upheld by the out-radiating energy of the Son of God, so that He is “not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27), whether we believe in Him or not. “Where the word of a King is, there is power: and who may say unto Him, What doest thou?” (Ecclesiastes 8:4). This passage in Hebrews 1:2-3—like Colossians 1:14-20 and Romans 11:36—beautifully summarizes the past, present and future work of Christ in relation to the whole universe.

1:3 by himself. The purging of our sins was accomplished solely “by Himself;” we have contributed nothing whatever to His great work of saving our souls.

1:3 right hand. Out of the twenty-one references to Christ being at the right hand of the Father (the first being in Psalm 16:8), five occur in Hebrews (Hebrews 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

1:4 Being made. The Son, by His essential deity, is acknowledged as “being” (Hebrews 1:3), but in His perfect humanity, He was “being made.” He created all the angels, but when He became man, He was made “a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9), but now, having been “appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2), in His glorified humanity, He is forever better than angels, even in His humanity.

1:5 said he. This is the first of at least forty quotations in Hebrews from the Old Testament Scriptures. A perennial objection of the Jews to Jesus has been that God has no son, since He is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), so Paul (assuming he is the writer) begins by showing that their own Scriptures prove God to be both Father and Son. This particular reference is from Psalm 2:7, referring not only to God’s Son, but also to His coming resurrection, as the first begotten from the dead (Acts 13:33; Colossians 1:18).

1:6 And again. This reference to the coming Son is from II Samuel 7:14. The terms of that particular promise to David had a precursive fulfillment in Solomon, but its eternal terms could apply only to the coming Messiah.

1:6 he saith. From Psalm 97:7, where the angels are called “gods.” In the psalm, the “gods” are evidently fallen angels who have promoted pagan worship of themselves. However, its citation in Hebrews indicates that all angels, whether faithful or fallen, are commanded to worship (which means, essentially, to bow down to the will of God) the true God of creation.

1:7 he saith. This passage is quoted from Psalm 104:4, the great psalm of Creation, providence and the Flood. The angels were created as spirits, evidently immediately after the creation of the universe; they have not existed from eternity. As the next verses assert, however, the Son has been forever. Note again Hebrews 1:5 and Psalm 2:7: “Thou art my Son….” This prophecy was given a thousand years before the Son became man, yet He already was the Son.

1:8 unto the Son. Christ is the Son of God by: resurrection (Hebrews 1:5a; Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4); human generation (Hebrews 1:5b; Luke 1:33); proclamation (Hebrews 1:6; Matthew 3:17); nature (Hebrews 1:8-9; John 10:30); eternal generation (Hebrews 1:10-12; Colossians 1:15); and inheritance (Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 1:2). In contrast to the eternal Son, angels are sons of God by special creation (Job 38:7; Psalm 104:4-5).

1:8 he saith. See Psalm 45:6-7.

1:9 God, even thy God. The testimony of Psalm 45:6-7 as quoted here is clearly Messianic; it is both addressed to God (note “thy throne, O God”—Hebrews 1:8) and spoken about God (“God, hath anointed thee…”). One person of the Godhead is speaking to another Person of the Godhead.

1:10 in the beginning. See Psalm 102:25-27. Modern big-bang cosmology says the earth evolved about ten billion years or more after the heavens evolved, but God says He made the earth before the stars of the heavens. Also compare Genesis 1:1, 9, and Genesis 1:14-19.

1:11 wax old. This revelation, originally given in the Psalms and now doubly verified, as it were, by being quoted in the New Testament, makes it clear that the universe is not evolving, but running down. This revelation anticipated the discovery of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which it illustrates, by almost three thousand years. Also called the law of increasing entropy, this law is considered one of the most certain, best-proved laws of science, specifying as it does the observed fact that every thing in the universe has a tendency to run down or deteriorate and eventually die. The universe as a whole is heading toward an ultimate heat death, with all the stars burned out and the whole cosmos at a uniform low temperature.

1:12 thou art the same. Although His creation is now decaying, the Creator and His Word remain the same forever (Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 13:8; I Peter 1:24-25; etc.).

1:13 Sit on my right hand. See Psalm 110:1. There are five references in Hebrews to Christ, the Son of God, at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

1:14 ministering spirits. This important passage indicates that the primary reason why God created the angels is so that they could serve to implement His purpose in creating and redeeming men and women in His own image. Angels possess great wisdom (II Samuel 14:20); great strength (Psalm 103:20); great speed (Daniel 9:21); and great numbers (Hebrews 12:22) in performing this ministry. They accomplish their ministry on behalf of the heirs of salvation, in various ways, including: instruction (Acts 10:3-6); deliverance (Psalm 34:7; 91:11); comfort (Matthew 1:20; Luke 22:43); and, finally, reception at death (Luke 16:22). They were created to be “ministering spirits [continually being], sent forth to minister [that is, ‘serve’] for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”

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