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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Hebrews

- Hebrews

by John & Jacob Abbott

INTRODUCTION

The Epistle is addressed to the Hebrew Christians, being intended apparently for that class of the Jewish nation most devoted to, and intimately connected with, the religion of their forefathers. That it was to be communicated to them through the medium of some local church, to which it was in the first instance directly addressed, is plain from the expressions in the Hebrews 13:22-58.13.25. The attempts to ascertain what local church this was, have given rise to conjectures as numerous and as laboriously maintained, as those in respect to the authorship of the work; but no one of the opinions advanced on this point, has been able to command any general assent among scholars.

We know that Paul was very deeply, interested in resisting the attempts of the Jews that the Mosaic institutions should be acknowledged and obeyed in the Christian church; and that his efforts in this cause awakened the animosity of the more zealous Jews against him, as the advocate of opinions which came strongly into collision with their prejudices and feelings. Now, if we suppose that he conceived the design of writing this treatise, towards the close of his career, for the purpose of making an attempt, in a deliberate and decided, and yet mild and conciliatory manner, to settle this question by drawing a parallel between the Jewish and Christian dispensations, in full, treating the former with the utmost deference and respect, while yet he showed the superiority of the latter in every point of comparison; that he sent the Epistle in the first instance, to some local church, near the central sea of the great influence which he intended to reach by it,--addressing to that church the particular communications in the Hebrews 13:22-58.13.25; that he refrained from attaching his name openly to the work, in order that he might not unnecessarily obtrude upon his readers the knowledge of an origin which might prepossess them unfavorably,--and that, in consequence of this, while it was generally understood to have been written by Paul, in the early church, it was not universally so understood; and, finally, that the discussion then commenced has been continued to the present time, through the fondness of men to speculate on what is not fully known, and to frame theories for the sake of the pleasure of ingeniously defending them;--if we make these suppositions, we perhaps account for the phenomena connected with the history of this Epistle, as satisfactorily as the nature of the case allows.