The Epistle to the Hebrews is a classical New Testament treatment of the precise manner in which the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. It presents us with a consideration of the perfection of Christ’s priesthood, final and yet continuing, in a way that enriches and illumines both study and devotion.

All the existing manuscript copies of this Epistle include the title pros hebraios (to the Hebrews), which clearly belongs to a very early tradition, even if it is not original, since it is contained in some of the oldest manuscripts. The readers themselves were evidently Jewish Christians, although the less plausible suggestion that they were Christians in general, or even Gentile Christians, is not without scholarly support (from Moffatt, E. F. Scott, and others.) But there is a constant appeal to the Old Testament throughout the Epistle, and a familiarity with the Jewish cultus is everywhere presupposed.

Moreover, it is a particular group of Hebrew Christians that the writer seems to have in mind, namely, men who had been through persecution and suffered deprivation if not death (10:32 ff.; 12:4). The group was probably quite small (5:12), and had failed to learn creatively from experience (5:11; 6:1); the people were in danger of apostasy (2:1) and in need of patient endurance (4:14; 12:1 f.). At the same time the writer speaks of his readers as “brothers” (3:1, NEB), and makes it clear that he had visited their community previously (13:19) and hoped to do so again (13:23). The possibility that the group was part of a larger society, and even separated from their leaders (cf. 10:25 and 13:24), would add considerable point to the situation addressed.

The community addressed by this writer apparently included Christians of ...

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