1. Literary and Historical Background
a. Who wrote this epistle? Whoever it was had extensive training in the J __ __ __ __ __ faith, a classical G __ __ __ __ background ( every single Old Testament reference in the letter is taken from the S __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ [ "LXX" ], the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures made originally at Alexandria, Egypt ), and exquisite command of the Greek language. The author apparently knew T __ __ __ __ __ __ personally ( 13:23 ) and was a "second generation" believer ( 2:3 ). A few of the "candidates" suggested by scholars down through the years:
(1) the apostle P __ __ __;
Many feel that the letter was finally included in the New Testament canon only because some early church leaders attributed its authorship to him. The epistle contains some Pauline theology, but there is also much which is unlike anything else Paul ever wrote. Most contemporary Bible scholars are convinced that he did not write Hebrews.
(2) A __ __ __ __ __ __;
A cultured Jew from Alexandria, known to be "eloquent, and mighty in the scriptures" ( Acts 18:24 ), he was a ministering contemporary of both Paul and Timothy. Martin Luther was convinced of his authorship.
(3) B __ __ __ __ __ __ __;
The Hellenistic Levite from Cyprus was instrumental in Paul's ministry, accompanying him on his first missionary journey. He certainly would have had command of the intricate details of the priesthood contained in the letter as well as complete familiarity with Greek culture. The early church father Tertullian thought that he wrote it.
(4) C __ __ __ __ __ __ of Rome;
A late first-century Christian, a few of Clement's epistles were considered for inclusion in the New Testament canon. Some contain wording virtually identical to parts of Hebrews, but some also contain theology widely different from that of this epistle.
(5) L __ __ __;
The beautiful Greek prose of Hebrews is rivaled only by some of Luke's most literary passages, and on this basis some have suggested that he might have written this letter. His reputation has been that of an historian rather than a theologian, however, and few scholars see him as the possible author of this book.
(6) A __ __ __ __ __ and P __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. Aquila was a teacher ( Acts 18:26 ), and the notion of a woman as co-author tickles our fancy, having been used by some to suggest why the author does not identify himself (herself?) in the letter, since women were not usually allowed to speak -- let alone teach -- in the early church.
b. When was Hebrews written? The book itself provides some clues.
(1) 8:3-5 seems to indicate that the Levitical priesthood was still active at the time the letter was written, still "offering g __ __ __ __ according to the l __ __."
(2) 10:11 says that "every priest standeth daily," offering sacrifices in accordance with Jewish tradition. This would indicate that the T __ __ __ __ __ was still in operation, which would place authorship before ____ A.D., when the temple was destroyed by the Romans under Titus.
(3) 13:11-12 makes reference to b __ __ __ __ sacrifices in the s __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ in the present tense. This would also indicate a time period consistent with (2).
(4) If A.D. 70 represents the latest date for the epistle, the reference in 2:3 to the author's having received the Gospel at second hand provides a clue for the earliest date, which can be further pin-pointed with the reference in 10:32 to the readers' having already suffered [ Claudius expelled all Christians from Rome in A.D. 49 ] coupled with the reference in 12:4 to their not having yet "resisted to bloodshed" [ martyrdom at the hands of the emperor N __ __ __ began officially in A.D. 64 ].
c. To whom was the epistle written? [ NOTE: Hebrews is not an epistle in the classic New Testament sense; it reads more like a thoroughly-researched treatise or a carefully-crafted sermon. ] Three possible types of readers have been suggested.
(1) G __ __ __ __ __ __ Christians of Greek culture, philosophical background, and religion (which would make the traditional title of the letter -- Hebrews -- inaccurate!);
(2) Hebraic Jews of the Holy Land;
(3) Hellenistic Jews of Greek-speaking provinces -- the dispora ( "dispersed ones" ).
This third group represents the most logical readership. They would have been second generation Christians who had been reared in the Hebrew religious tradition, including its rules of scriptural interpretation and the standards of the synagogue, and many of them had probably made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least once in their lifetimes and had witnessed first-hand the sacrificial Temple system in operation. The letter indicates that they are having second thoughts about their Christian beliefs and are contemplating a return to the historic Hebrew faith. If this is an accurate description of the readership of the epistle, Apollos would be the most logical author.