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39. The result of the above enquiry may be shortly stated. As the current of popular opinion in the church has gradually set in towards the Pauline authorship, inferring that a document at first sight so Pauline must have proceeded from the Apostle himself: so has it also set in towards the church at Jerusalem as the original readers, inferring that the title, to the Hebrews, must be thus interpreted. But as in the one case, so in the other, the general popular opinion does not bear examination. As the phænomena of the Epistle do not bear out the idea of the Pauline authorship, so neither do they that of being addressed to the Palestine churches. And as in the other case there is one man, when we come to search and conjecture, pointed out as most likely to bave written the Epistle, so here, when we pursue the same process, there is one place pointed out, to which it seems most likely to have been addressed. At Rome, such a Church existed as is indicated in it: at Rome, above all other places, its personal and historical notices are satisfied : at Rome, we find it first used : at Rome only, is there an unanimous and unvarying negative tradition regarding its authorship. To Rome then, until stronger evidence is adduced, we believe it to have been originally written.



1. Almost all Commentators agree in believing that our Epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. And rightly: for if that great break-up of the Jewish polity and religious worship had occurred, we may fairly infer, that some mention of such an event would have been found in an argument, the scope of which is to shew the transitoriness of the Jewish priesthood and the Levitical ceremonies. It would be inconceivable, that such an Epistle should be addressed to Jews after their city and temple had ceased to exist.

2. This then being assumed, as our later limit, i. e. A.D. 70, or at the latest assigned date, 72, it remains to seek for an earlier limit. Such would appear to me to be fixed by the death of St. Paul : but inasmuch as 1) this would not be recognized either by the advocates of the Pauline authorship, or by those who believe that the Epistle, though possibly written by another, was superintended by the Apostle, and seeing 2) that the date of that event itself is wholly uncertain, it will be necessary to look elsewhere for some indication. And the only traces of one will, I conceive, be found by combining several hints furnished by the Epistle. Such are, a) that the first generation, of those who had seen and heard the Lord, was at all events nearly passed

away : b) that the first leaders of the church had died, probably under

the persecution elsewhere alluded to: c) that Timotheus had been

imprisoned, and was then set free, probably in connexion with that same

persecution. If these notices are to be taken, as maintained above

(§ ii. par. 31 ff.), to apply to the Neronian persecution, then the

Epistle cannot have been written till some considerable time after that,

in order to justify the expression, remember the former days, of

our ch. x. 32. Now that persecution broke out in 64, and lasted four

years, i. e. till Nero's death in 68. And I may notice, that even those

who are far from adopting the views here advocated as to the Author and

readers of the Epistle, yet consider, that the liberation of Timotheus

may well have been connected with the cessation of the Neronian


3. If we follow these indications, we shall get the year 68 as our

earlier limit, and the time of writing the Epistle will be 68–70,
i. e. during the siege of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus, to which
we may perhaps discern an allusion in ch. xiii. 14, for we have here no
abiding city, but we seek one to come.

4. With regard to the place of writing, we are almost entirely in the
dark. Taking the usual New Test. sense, above maintained, for those
from Italy,—“ persons whose home is in Italy, but who are now here,”
-it cannot have been written in Italy. Nor is Apollos (for when we are
left, as now, to the merest conjecture, it is necessary to shape our course
by assuming our own hypothesis) likely, after what had happened,
again to be found fixed at Corinth. Jerusalem, and indeed Palestine,
would be precluded by the Jewish war then raging ; Ephesus is possible,
and would be a not unlikely resort of Timotheus after his liberation
(ch. xiii. 23), as also of Apollos at any time (Acts xviii. 24): Alexandria,
the native place of Apollos, is also possible, though the words if he come
shortly, applied to Timotheus, would not so easily fit it, as on his libe-
ration he would be more likely to go to some parts with which he was
familiar than to Alexandria where he was a stranger. In both these
cities there may well have been persons from Italy sojourning : and
this very phrase seems to point to some place of considerable resort. On
the whole then, I should incline to EPHESUS, as the most probable place
of writing: but it must be remembered that on this head all is in the
realm of the vaguest conjecture.


1. The occasion which prompted this Epistle evidently was, the
eninity of the Jews to the Gospel of Christ, which had brought a

double danger on the church : on the one hand that of persecution, on the other that of apostasy. Between these lay another, that of mingling with a certain recognition of Jesus as the Christ, a leaning to Jewish practices and valuing of Jewish ordinances. But this latter does not so much appear in our Epistle, as in those others which were written by St. Paul to mixed churches; those to the Romans, the Galatians, the Colossians. The principal peril to which Jewish converts were exposed, especially after they had lost the guidance of the Apostles themselves in their various churches, was, that of falling back from the despised following of Jesus of Nazareth into the more compact and apparently safer system of their childhood, which moreover they saw tolerated as a lauful religion, while their own was outcast and proscribed.

2. The object then of this Epistle is, to shew them the superiority of the Gospel to the former covenant: and that mainly by exhibiting, from the Scriptures, and from the nature of the case, the superiority of Jesus Himself to both the messengers and the High Priests of that former covenant. This is the main argument of the Epistle, filled out and illustrated by various corollaries springing out of its different parts, and expanding in the directions of encouragement, warning, and illustration.

3. This argument is entered on at once without introduction in ch. i., where Christ's superiority to the angels, the mediators of the old covenant, is demonstrated from Scripture. Then, having interposed (ii. 1-4) a caution on the greater necessity of taking heed to the things which they had heard, the Writer shews (ii. 5-18) why He to whom, and not to the angels, the future world is subjected, yet was made lower than the angels: viz. that He might become our merciful and •faithful High Priest, to deliver and to save us, Himself having undergone temptation like ourselves.

4. Having mentioned this title of Christ, he goes back, and prepares the way for its fuller treatment, by a comparison of Him with Moses (iii. 1–6), and a shewing that that antitypical rest of God, from which unbelief excludes, was not the rest of the seventh day, nor that of the possession of Canaan, but one yet reserved for the people of God (iii. 7iv. 10), into which we must all the more strive to enter, because the word of our God is keen and searching in judgment, and nothing hidden from His sight, with whom we have to do (iv. 11–13).

5. He now resumes the main consideration of his great subject, the

3 One remarkable trace we have of allusion to this form of error,-in its further development, as appears by the verdict of past experience which is appended, but otherwise singularly resembling a passage in the Epistle to the Romans (xiv. 17), in our ch. xiii. 9, “ For it is good that the heart be established with grace, not with meats, by which they were not profited who walked in them.

High Priesthood of Christ, with a hortatory note of passage (iv. 14–16). This subject he pursues through the whole middle portion of the Epistle (v. 1-X. 18), treating it in its various aspects and requirements. Of these we have (v. 1–10) the conditions of High Priesthood: (v. 11– vi. 20) a digression complaining, with reference to the difficult subject of the Melchisedek-priesthood, of their low state of spiritual attainment, warning them of the necessity of progress, but encouraging them by God's faithfulness: (vii, 1–x. 18) the priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchisedek, in its distinction from the Levitical priesthood (see the various steps set forth in the headings in the commentary), as perpetual,-as superior, in that Abraham acknowledged himself inferior to Melchisedek, -as having power of endless life, -as constituted with an oath,—as living for ever,-as without sin,-as belonging to the heavenly sanctuary, and to a covenant promised by God Himself:--as consisting in better ministrations, able to purify the conscience itself, and to put away sin by the one Sacrifice of the Son of God.

6. Having thus completed his main argument, he devotes the concluding portion (x. 19-xii. 25) to a series of solemn exhortations to endurance in confidence and patience, and illustrations of that faith, on which both must be founded. In x. 19–39, we have exhortation and warning deduced from the facts lately proved, our access to the heavenly place, and our having a great High Priest over the house of God: then by the Pauline citation the (or, my) just man shall live by faith, a transition note is struck to ch. xi. which entirely consists in a panegyric of faith and a recounting of its triumphs : on a review of which the exhortation to run the race set before us, and endure chastisement, is again taken up, ch. xii. And the same hortatory strain is pursued to the end of the Epistle; the glorious privileges of the Christian covenant being held forth, and the awful peril of forfeiting them by apostasy ; —and those graces, and active virtues, and that stedfastness in suffering shame, being enjoined, which are necessary to the following and imitation of Jesus Christ. The valedictory prayer (xiii. 20, 21), and one or two personal notices and greetings, conclude the whole.



1. Something has already been said, in the previous enquiry into the authorship of our Epistle, respecting the question of its original language. There also the principal passages of the Fathers will be found which bear on this subject. They may be thus briefly summed up:

4 See above, $ i. par. 149.

2. The idea of a Hebrew original is found in Clement of Alexandria (cited above, $ i. par. 14), in Eusebius (ib. par. 48), Jerome, Theodoret, Euthalius (above, $ i. par. 46), Primasius, John Damascenus, Ecumenius, Theophylact,-in Cosmas Indicopleustes,-in Rhabanus Maurus,in Thomas Aquinas; in some modern writers, especially Hallet, in an enquiry into the author and language of the Epistle, appended to Peirce's Commentary (1742),--and Michaelis.

3. Still such an apparently formidable array of ancient testimony is not to be taken as such, without some consideration. Clement's assertion of a Hebrew original is not reproduced by his scholar Origen, but on the contrary a Greek original is presupposed by his very words (above, $ i. par. 19). And this his divergence from Clement of Alexandria is not easy to explain, if he had regarded him as giving matter of history, and not rather a conjecture of his own. Indeed, the passage of Clement seems to bear this latter on the face of it: for it connects the similarity of style between this Epistle and the Acts with the notion of St. Luke being its translator. If we might venture to fill up the steps by which the inference came about, they would be nearly these :

The Epistle must be St. Paul's. But St. Paul was a Hebrew, and was writing to Hebrews : how then do we find the Epistle in Greek, not unlike in style to that of the Acts of the Apostles ? What, if the writer of the Greek of that book were also the writer of the Greek of this,-and St. Paul, as was to be supposed, wrote as a Hebrew to the Hebrews, in Hebrew, St. Luke translating into Greek ?”

4. Again, Eusebius is not consistent in this matter with himself. In another place he clearly implies that the Epistle was written in Greek. And such has been the opinion of almost all the moderns: of all, we may safely say, who have handled the subject impartially and intelligently. The reasons for this now generally received opinion are mainly found in the style of the Epistle, which is the most purely Greek of all the writings of the New Test. : so that it would be violating all probability to imagine it a translation from a language of entirely different rhetorical character. The construction of the periods is such, in distinction from the character, in this particular, of the Oriental languages, that if it is a translation, the whole argumentation of the original must have been broken up into its original elements of thought, and all its connecting links recast; so that it would not be so much a translation, as a rewriting, of the Hebrew Epistle.

5. The plays on words again, and the citations from the Septuagint version being made in entire independence of the Hebrew text, form collectively a presumptive proof, the weight of which it is very difficult to evade, that the present Greek text is the original. Such peculiarities belong to thought running free and selecting its own words, not to the constrained reproduction of the thoughts of another in another tongue.


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